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Portrush will be greatest ever Open: Padraig Harrington

By Jonathan Bradley

Rory McIlroy is hopeful of his clubs – which went missing on his return flight from the US Open – turning up, while Padraig Harrington is savouring the opportunity to compete in the Open at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Harrington – Open champion in 2007 and 2008 – is also relishing the prospect of teeing it up with McIlroy and Stephen Gallacher in the first two rounds of the Irish Open at Fota Island, starting tomorrow.

McIlroy's preparations were disrupted when his clubs went missing.

"Landed in Dublin yesterday morning from Newark and still no golf clubs," McIlroy tweeted yesterday.

United Airlines replied: "Your clubs will be in tomorrow and we'll deliver them to the tournament for you."

McIlroy was returning from the US Open at Pinehurst in North Carolina where he finished 15 shots behind runaway winner Martin Kaymer.

Harrington, meanwhile, expects to participate in something very special when the most venerable of golf's Majors is played on the north Antrim coast for the first time since 1951, a move confirmed on Monday.

"I'm sure when it does come it'll be one of the greatest Opens ever. The people will turn out and the atmosphere will be second to none," said Harrington.

"The raw excitement which will surround The Open Championship at Portrush will be unbelievable, just phenomenal."

That he will be at least 47 when the Open returns to this island appears to be of no special significance to the Dubliner.

While Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley spoke candidly at Fota of being in "the twilight" of his career as a tournament professional at 47, Harrington felt unable even to speculate where he or his game might be at that age.

"Five years time? I don't know," he shrugged. "At the moment I'm fitter and stronger than I've ever been – you'll have to wait and seen when it comes. Maybe I'll be gearing up for the Seniors Tour at 47, I don't know.

"We'll have to see how I play the next couple of years. I feel fit and strong, but who knows what will happen. Certainly players, they burn out. It's not a physical thing.

"I've maintained everything I need to maintain to compete, but it will all be based on whether you're burnt out or not. So, I can't give you an answer for sure.

"If I began thinking it's going to be when I'm 47, then probably it'd come a little quicker, so I'll try to delay that thought."

Harrington arguably is Ireland's most decorated sportsman with three Major titles prominent among 28 professional wins, but he's endured 70 months of drought on the world's principal Tours since his victory at the 2008 US PGA at Oakland Hills.

It's a measure of his dreadnought spirit that he'll tee it up at his 19th Irish Open as optimistic about his prospects as when he won this title at Adare Manor in 2007, a victory which Harrington regards as a vital precursor to his Major championship breakthrough at the Open that July.

Asked how "burnout" might manifest itself, Harrington retorted: "I'm trying not to think about it or put myself in it.

"It's one of those traps, the more you analyse and think about it, the more you're going to be there.

"So, I just play golf and get on with it," he insisted.

"I like playing golf, really, really like it. If I wasn't playing a tournament here this week, I'd be out playing golf.

"I believe the performances are there and I can do the job. I'm going to stay confident and believe it's going to turn round with more big wins again."

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